QXL Exchange and LastMinute have been receiving a good deal of attention in the mainstream and industry press, in the last few months.

QXL Exchange and LastMinute have been receiving a good deal of

attention in the mainstream and industry press, in the last few


It’s a great story, which begins two years ago with the launch of

Quixell (as it was known before the name change) by Tim Jackson and

Brent Hoberman. It was the UK and Europe’s first online auction site,

using a successful model taken from similar sites in the US. Users could

bid for products on the site in auctions that had end points fixed in

time. A bid increment was set and the auction kept going with the top

dog taking away the product at the final bell. The site was (and still

is) pioneering, and has continued to grow at a good rate with product

range and features added all the time.

A new development on the site is the Exchange. This allows users to

auction their own goods on the site. QXL acts as a facilitator putting

the buyers in touch with the sellers (no charges are made and no

commission is taken).

Sellers may choose to use QXL’s transaction and distribution services,

where a charge is made - or opt for free methods.

Making money from this is not the real revenue stream for QXL - the

intention, I am sure, is to develop a large, profiled user base offering

endless opportunities for marketing folk.

During Quixell’s rise, Brent Hoberman left to set up his own company

and, in the middle of 1998, LastMinute appeared on the scene.

LastMinute offers (unsurprisingly) last-minute deals on almost

everything from weekend breaks and theatre tickets to perfume and

underwear. LastMinute sources these deals from everywhere and anywhere

and operates a publishing system so it can add the offers to its site

straightaway. This means that, once it has secured an offer, the user

can buy it almost immediately. The online payment system is

straightforward and, I am told, the distribution service is good.

LastMinute is competing with QXL’s original site (which now offers

holiday breaks and gifts in addition to the core products of PC hardware

and electronics) but the experience for the user is different. On

LastMinute, you can get the items there and then, without participating

in an auction.

The immediacy is appealing and, with prices on QXL sometimes spiralling

above normal shop prices, it’s worth noting LastMinute’s price promise:

it will refund the price of the item plus pounds 20 if you can find it

at a lower price elsewhere.

A possible contender for auction at either of these sites this time next

year is the Millennium Dome. This site could be considered to be an

accurate reflection of the Dome’s current status in the minds of the UK:

all hype and no substance. This is not deliberately cruel: the site is

well built with Flash and HTML versions, the design looks slick,

downloads quickly and the navigation is easy to use. The use of internet

infomercials (animated shorts produced in Flash) is also nice to


The problem is that it has nothing to say - I browsed the entire site in

about 15 minutes and was left with not much more of an idea of what was

going to be happening, when or why. Content will be added to the site in

the next ten months, I am sure, so this is a good starting point for the

Dome project.

Reebok Europe could also do with a bit extra. As an umbrella site for

Reebok’s European operations, it’s well designed and has been built in

four languages. Unfortunately, the site falls down in its interaction

with product. I enjoyed seeing the range of trainers available.


Now that I like that trainer, I want to buy it. Can I do this? Buying

online would be difficult as it would rely on direct distribution, but I

could go to my local store, where they stock Reebok.

Sadly, I couldn’t find a store locator. It’s a shame as there must be

some retail site out there willing to partner with Reebok to offer this

information. This would be difficult to arrange across Europe, but you

need this feature to get people to re-use this site. The chat forums are

doing fairly well, but I’m unlikely to return to the site for them.

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